Greek Tsoureki

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Yield: 1 loaf, 16 slices

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This traditional Greek Easter bread is terrific for Easter brunch, slathered with butter; and any leftovers make the world's most outrageous French toast! A nice thing about this recipe is that the work is broken up into two sections. The first day you make and knead the dough in the evening, then pop it into the fridge for a long, slow rise. On the morning of the second day you shape the dough, then let it rise again and bake it.

The traditional flavoring for the bread is a spice calledmahlep. In a pinch you can substitute vanilla, but the mahlep is worth finding. It adds a distinctive cherry/almond, sweet-nutty flavor that's unlike anything you've tried before.

Greek Tsoureki

star rating (8) rate this recipe »
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time: Overnight,
Yield: 1 loaf, 16 slices
Published: 02/25/2013

Ingredients

Starter

Dough

Optional Decoration

  • 5 hard-boiled eggs, dyed red
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, for brushing the hard-boiled eggs

Tips from our bakers

  • If you're planning on red eggs for decoration, bake the bread with undyed eggs first, then swap for colored ones once the bread has cooled.

Directions

1) To make the starter: Mix the starter ingredients in a large bowl. Cover the bowl and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour. The mixture will initially be the consistency of thick pancake batter; after an hour it should be very bubbly, airy, and doubled in size.

2) While the starter rests, ready the dough. Melt the butter over low heat and set it aside to cool. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour with the sugar, dry milk, salt, and mahlep.

3) Mix 2 of the eggs into the risen starter. Stir in the cooled melted butter.

4) If you're substituting vanilla extract for mahlep, stir it in. Add the flour/sugar mixture and stir until everything is incorporated.

5) Add the remaining 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups flour 1 cup at a time, as needed to make dough that's stiff enough to form a ball but is also soft and slightly sticky.

6) Knead the dough — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until it springs back when pressed gently with a floured finger. If kneading by hand, try to use only the lightest dusting of flour on the counter and on your hands. The more gently you knead, the less sticky the dough will seem. When done, place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours, or overnight.

7) The next morning, remove the dough from the fridge and knead it gently a few times, to deflate it.

8) Liberally butter a 9" round cake pan, or line a baking sheet with parchment. Divide the dough into three pieces, and set them aside, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap.

9) If you're using the dyed eggs, rub each one with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil and set them aside. Press the large piece of dough evenly into the prepared pan.

10) Make three 16" strands with the dough; pinch the ends together at one end. Braid for 4" to 5"; tuck an egg into the braid. Continue to braid, placing another egg into the braid at 2" intervals. You can make a longer, thinner braid with five eggs, the braid formed into a wreath shape and placed in the round pan; or a shorter, straight, thicker braid, using three eggs, as shown above.

11) Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let the loaf rise at room temperature for 2 to 2 1/2 hours; if you're using the round pan, the top of the loaf should be just barely level with the top rim of the pan. During the last 45 minutes of the rise, preheat your oven to 350°F.

12) To bake the bread: Lightly beat the remaining egg. Brush it over the loaf. (Alternatively, omit the egg wash if you'd prefer to brush the loaf with honey when it comes out of the oven.) If you're baking a round loaf, press the last hard-boiled egg firmly into the center of the risen loaf.

13) Bake the bread for 20 minutes. Open the oven door, reach in, and carefully press each egg farther down into the bread.

14) Continue to bake the bread for an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 190°F. Tent the bread with aluminum foil for the last 30 minutes, to prevent over-browning.

15) Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack. If desired, heat 1/4 cup honey with 1 tablespoon water until warm, and brush over the loaf. Let the bread cool completely before serving.

Yield: 1 loaf, 16 slices.

Nutrition information

Serving Size: 1 slice Servings Per Batch: 16 servings Amount Per Serving: Calories: 182 Calories from Fat: 43 Total Fat: 5g Saturated Fat: 3g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 45mg Sodium: 166mg Total Carbohydrate: 29g Dietary Fiber: 1g Sugars: 7g Protein: 6g

* The nutrition information provided for this recipe is determined by the ESHA Genesis R&D software program. Substituting any ingredients may change the posted nutrition information.

Reviews

1
  • star rating 04/05/2015
  • Lindsay from Ohio
  • Made this for Easter, minus the colored eggs. I didn't have the baker's dry milk and used nonfat dry milk, and when I checked for doneness my thermometer registered a bit higher than 190. That being said, everyone raved about it and it was quite soft. I want to try again with the baker's dry milk and cutting the time down, mine was probably done closer to 42 minutes vs the 45 minutes I baked it at. I also added about 5 drops of fiori di sicilia, that was a good idea, the bread smelled slightly of citrus.
  • star rating 04/04/2015
  • Fran from Southeastern, Pa
  • FANTASTIC! I did have Mahlep but in seed form, so I crushed them slightly and steeped them in hot water and substituted the "tea" for some of the water called for in the recipe. I should have made two smaller loaves but wound up with a very large round braid. It is slightly sweet, soft and oh so tasty. I hope I will have a few leftover bits for French toast.
  • 03/29/2015
  • sammi from pa
  • I've made this for over 50 years .... through trial and error I have learned to color/dye RAW eggs. They bake (hard cook) with the bread and this way anyone who wants can eat those eggs! The hard-cooked and dyed ones - after baking - are really not that great tasting.
  • 03/28/2015
  • Demie from Arcadia, CA
  • You state that Mahlepi is traditional. Anise seed is also traditional and gives the bread a wonderful aroma and the preferred spice for many Greek ladies. Regarding the eggs: I braid the bread, bake it and before serving it I cut out an appropriate number of plugs and put a beautifully fresh Easter egg in the hole. That way you can eat the egg and do not have to discard it, and you also do not have red dye on the bread.
  • star rating 03/24/2015
  • juliagaczol from KAF Community
  • I haven't made this yet. Only found out about it a few months ago from watching Martha Bakes. Hope to make it soon. Just wanted to say that Mahleb, which I found out about a few years ago, and hope to buy soon, is available from Penzey's Spices, listed as Mahlab. It goes by several names.
  • 03/23/2015
  • old school home ec from oregon
  • The trick to keeping red eggs on/in the bread is to form a cross out of dough, split the ends, and wrap them around the eggs. Do be sure to get the red dye from a Greek deli or shop---it makes all the difference.
  • star rating 03/23/2015
  • Cory from Massachusetts
  • I know we are not supposed to rate recipes before baking, but as a longtime baker of tsoureki, I had to offer this advice: put the eggs in the bread at least 30 min. before baking. That way, the bread rises a bit around the eggs and they don't pop out as much. Also, if you can find greek egg dye, your eggs will be redder; use brown eggs so the color will be darker, and don't put the eggs in the fridge after dyeing, or else they will develop condensation spots and ruin the appearance as they warm back up to room temp. We never eat the eggs in the bread, anyway : ) The last tip is get the mahlepi! It's also called mahlab, I believe. Your house will smell so heavenly. Just make sure it's nice and fresh: it should have a sweet smell, and store it in the freezer if you don't use it all, because it will go rancid (like nuts). Happy Easter!
  • star rating 04/18/2014
  • Janice from Littleton, MA
  • The bread is delicious! But, I haven't had luck keeping the hard-boiled eggs in the bread while it bakes. I'm sure it's just my lack of technique, but no matter how firmly I think they are braided in, they work there way out during the baking process. Once I missed a fallen egg when I took the bread out of the oven. The next time I used the oven, I was baking a pizza and the forgotten egg exploded all over it--it was pretty messy, but funny! Back to the recipe... I do make this every year for Easter, since it is really good, but leave out the hard-boiled eggs. And it is definitely worth searching out the mahlep--it does give it a very subtly distinct taste.
    I'm glad you enjoy this recipe, even though the eggs pop out on you. I'm guessing you need to really jam those eggs in the dough to get them to stay there. As the braid rises, it's going to want to push the eggs outward. Luckily, it is a beautiful bread with or without eggs Barb@KAF
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